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tv   NOW With Alex Wagner  MSNBC  October 23, 2013 12:00pm-1:00pm EDT

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governors declined to set up their own state-based exchanges while republicans in congress, too busy wasting $50 million on over 40 votes to defund the law, repeatedly rejected the administration's request for additional funds, leaving hhs to implement the president's signature legislative accomplishment on a shoe string budget. in the meantime, conservative groups spent their money running ads trying to scare americans from seeking out health insurance. given these extraordinary efforts to ensure failure, it's no surprise republicans are basking in the glow of so many error messages. ed rodgers in the washington post wrote, i'm rooting for obama care to fail, and i encourage others to do the same. at this point, the biggest problem for the 48 million americans without insurance is what to do when one party ab solves itself of all responsibility. then again, apparently the republican plan is coming. >> paul ryan will lay out the big republican reform plan in january. i think it will be much better for the country.
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>> do you think it will have an alternative to obama care? >> it's the absolute full conservative reform to obama care. >> or then again, maybe not. >> speaker boehner, your friend bill kristol said on "morning joe" this morning that paul ryan would unveil the house gop plan for health care reform sometime in january. is it your understanding that's going to happen, and can you give us an idea of what it might look like? >> i'll let you talk to paul about that. >> house gop leadership aides tell nbc news they were caught a little bit offguard by the remarks and are unaware of anything specific in the pipeline related to health care to be unveiled in january. joining me today, washington but a row chief at mother jones, david corn, manager editor of thegrio.com joy reed, and editor and publisher of "the nation" and contributor to "the
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washington post," katrina. david, because your chuckles were the loudest during that oeoe open, i have to ask you, we have focused a lot and will continue to focus on the disastrous rollout that has been the aca. but i think it's very important to remind everyone just how many roadblocks were set up in terms of getting this thing ready. >> i think you did that well in the setup. congratulations. >> thank you, thank you. >> but there's something else to remind people of. i don't want to sound like i have rosy-colored glasses on because the website is a big disaster, at least from a pr perspective. there's a lot of obama care that is, indeed, working. the state exchanges, 14 of the state exchanges, places like california, kentucky. you have tens of thousands of people signed up. the medicaid expansion part of obama care is already getting hundreds of thousands of people insured who weren't insured. pre-existing conditions, all those things have kicked in. on my twitter feed last week, i started just talking about
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what's wrong and right with obama care. i got hundreds, literally hundreds of people who told me their premiums are going down or they're getting better insurance than they could for the same amount of money. so the problem republicans are going to have, as much as they want to chuckle and may hay out of the computer issue, is that this is becoming implemented or instituted for tens if not hundreds of thousands or millions of americans. so when paul ryan comes up with this plan that doesn't exist, are they going to rip that all out by the roots? i don't know. >> jeff, the other strange thing that i think ultimately may happen here is the state-run exchanges, as david points out, seem to be faring a lot better. you may have a situation several months hence when the federal exchanges are either still cumbersome or not working as well as the state exchanges. then you have republican governors who are all about state's rights, decreasing the size and scope and power of the federal government saying, no, we're not going to set up our own exchanges, we're going to continue to rely on the federal exchanges, even though state-run exchanges are doing better.
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>> okay. first, this is going to depend, i think, on wether or not other republican governors take the lead like governor kasich from ohio, who was opposed to obama care and said, look, we're going to have to do this. i also have to say, i don't fully accept the premise of your setup. in politics, often, a party out of power opposes and tries to hinder the party in power from doing what it wants to do. it is still fundamentally the responsibility of those who run the executive branch of government to get something right, particularly something as controversial and potentially significant as the affordable health care act. no matter how much one wants to say republicans oppose this, they didn't fund it correctly, this is still on the president and his team. >> i think that's -- >> one other thing. i would argue that -- i know this is a controversial thing to say on cable tv, but we may not know what will happen in three or four months. >> i don't think that's controversial at all. >> my point -- >> but i think the narrative is
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the one you're espousing, which is this is on the president's back. there are a lot of americans that don't understand that 26 or 27 governors said we're not going to set up our exchanges, that this was funded at a fifth of what it was supposed to be funded at. that's not an excuse. that's just fact. there's a dearth of understanding about what's transpired -- >> left and right i have lived as perhaps the senior citizen on this panel through decades of people saying, you know why socialism never worked? it never has really been tried. i'll quote the great secretary of defense donald rumsfeld. you go into politics with the politics you have, not the politics you want. i frankly am startled, particularly because obama is president in part because his team used the new media and used new technologies that no one had before. one of the things they did nobody had ever done was they tested and tested and tested. when it came to the most
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significant domestic issue, they blew it so far. >> and -- go ahead. >> jeff is a historian. he's right to say we need to look out over months. it's way too early. i think there's a kind of media and political hysteria about the lack of success of this internet portal, which is stigmatizing the entire aca. david speaks about what has been working. you are right that it seems to me this administration, which campaigned in prose, has governed in a clunky way in terms of communicating the import and impact of the aca. i think we need to -- you know, we need to look at the other obstacles to obama care. david mentioned the successes in the states, but i think the most serious obstacle is the right-wing conservative well-funded opposition and trying to ensure this program is sabotaged. jeff, this is not new in
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american history. during the new deal, there were many legal challenges to ensure that new deal legislation would be struck and that there were great obstacles put forward to the implementation of the new deal. if we're going to remember history, we have to remember that there have been previous times of attempts to sabotage a program that if it does impact, as david suggest it may well, the condition of people's lives, no wonder republicans are running scared. they're worried this will be a success, not a failure. >> we have many narratives to discuss here. but i think one, to your point, katrina, it is important not to conflate the failure of this rollout because it has been a failed rollout, i think. >> internet rollout. >> the internet rollout, with the failure of the affordable care act. to that degree, the medicaid expansion is a huge, huge piece of this. the state-run exchanges are a huge piece too. when we talk about the rollout and the problems the administration has not accounted for, part of this is also the way -- the sort of nature of government today, which is so
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ham strung by various bureaucracie bureaucracies. the reason cgi was given this task to build this website and not a probably better, more savvy tech firm, to some degree, according to our very own chuck todd, is because people who once worked in the administration were not allowed to bid on the process. you got a third-tier group -- a canadian group -- not that all canadians are bad. no hating on canada. but you didn't get the best people for the job. >> you're reading my mind, alex. i was thinking as i was listening to you all talk that i was waiting for the comparison to the campaign. yes, they were tech wizards. they were putting advertising inside of video games. pretty amazing. they were a private entity running essentially a unified, national business. >> with a lot of resources. >> with a lot of unlimited resources and the ability to contract as they would hire the best and brightest, hiring kids right out of college. now you're dealing with
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government. i call it a different government agency today. had to do some business. you know what happened while i was on the phone? computer went down. nothing to do with the aca. any time you're dealing with government, you're dealing with second-rate technology, period. and secondly, there are six, not just one, there are six minimum contractors that receive contracts to work on this website. >> 55 total. >> but the six big ones that had to do it. were they picked because they were the apple computer of setting up, you know, exchange websites? did they go to travelocity? no. we're dealing with government. then you're also dealing with government. rather than unified affordable care act is running a piecemeal affordable care act. some states are doing exchanges, some are not. in florida, the navigators, who are supposed to be the human that can help you, they're giving them such a fight. they're making it impossible for them to work out of the state department of health.
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they're throwing every monkey wrench possible into the system in that government in florida to make it not work. so you have all of these things combining. yes, it's the administration's responsibility, but let's just keep in mind, that's the problem with the website. >> this is the burden that the president assumed, in part because he also issued the single payer system, which is simply -- >> you mean joe lieberman -- >> the president said, politically, this makes sense to me, but it won't work, so i'm going this way. if you say we have to do things through government, you have to make sure government works. why is the kentucky site doing so well? it's one of the best sites. because it's a democratic governor of kentucky, a red state. he knows damn well if he wants to stay in that job, he has to do a really good job. it's very hard because it's easy to criticize the government, which is what the right wants. they want to make the case that government can't do this and we shouldn't have to do this or
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anything else. and obama care has now become a metaphor. >> i just want to say, i do think progressives need to be very critical of the government because we need to not denounce it as the right does but restore and recapture it because it has been captured by big money, which is one reason that we have a piecemeal, private, snurn insurance-based aca program. but one has to look at the money that has flowed and polluted the system. >> but i want to go back to the point that this is the government the president has. this is the climate in which he's governing. given that, what should the white house do? everybody has ideas. fixing the site is part of it. >> let me give you a short-term, hindsight one. by the way, i can't wait for fox news to be quoting you on every time you deal with the government, you deal with second-rate folks. >> no, not the people. >> processes. >> processes, not the people. >> which is the argument they
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make in the first place. one of the things that struck me about obama when he came out, and frankly, i have felt this about the president since he was campaigning, he talks too much. >> you think he should be less transparent? >> a 28-minute speech is six minutes too long about what happened. surrounded by the same kind of human props. that poor pregnant diabetic who almost collapsed. it was too long. what he might have learned from winston churchill was to begin by saying, we screwed up. >> but he did say that. >> we screwed up. and we are going to fix it. i'll tell you the other thing. i realize sometimes networks can be -- i want to just be a -- >> you're allowed to do whatever you want. >> because i represent myself as a humble country journalist, not
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an advocate. >> i think many people at this table would consider themselves journalists. >> and advocates. >> we can get into that discussion later. >> my point is when he said nobody's madder than me that this isn't working, i'm thinking, how about a single working mother whose kid has a pre-existing condition and couldn't get on the website. i bet she was angrier than obama. my feeling was because he's president in part because of his eloquence, going back to 2004, that speech, he spoke at great length about this and, yes, it's a great system, and it's not working because too many people want it. i would have much preferred we've blown it and we're going to fix it. then the question is going to be three months from now, because you are quite right, we don't know, is this, in fact, a website problem, or are there more structural dilemmas? we're going to find the answer. >> so that point, first of all, i don't think the administration really truly knows what the problems are.
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i think we're discovering right now, which is a problem in and of itself. so just going out there saying, we got it, we'll fix it, is -- >> not we got it, we blew it and we'll fix it. >> i mean, he did say that. >> i know, but that's part of the problem. >> the reason he was perhaps long winded or 26 minutes longer than you would have preferred is the administration feels like they need to make the case for the aca independent of this website stuff. i think there's a legitimacy to that. it's bigger than the websites. that said, at points during that speech, it did sort of sound like this could have been given three weeks ago. this is the same sort of campaign-style speech about the aca that he would have given before the enrollment period began. i ask you, david, as a progressive journalist, does the president need to go out there every day and say, this is what's happening? what level of transparency is will behoove -- >> no, i think this could end up taking not weeks but months. bringing new people into a coding issue slows things down because they have to be brought
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up to speed first on what happened and how they did it before they can come up with solutions. this may be a couple months. coming out every day would not be good for the president. so i think he needs to say something, we're on this, he a appointed somebody. that guy can do briefings every day for the tech press. look like he's cracking the whip periodically. >> joy, i guess i just wonder, can this get resolved without a delay in the individual mandate, and can the white house -- how do they negotiate the politics of that? >> of course. listen, i think people are forgetting the affordable care act itself, the actual insurance, would not kick in until january. it's not as if you couldn't get on the website october 1st, you now can never, ever get affordable care. you are still -- and most people, including in the massachusetts example, shopped up until the last minute and didn't choose until the last minute. even when we have the opportunity when we get health care offered to us on the job, it's not as if the very day
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you're handed it by hr, voila, you pick health care. it takes time. i think people who really need it are going to get it. >> the optimism corner. joy reed. okay. after the break, the city of detroit heads to court to prove it is eligible for what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in u.s. history. we'll talk 911 in the 313. that's next on "now." huh, fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance. everybody knows that. well, did you know that when a tree falls in the forest and no one's around, it does make a sound? ohhh...ohhh...oh boy! i'm falling. everybody look out! ahhhhh...ugh. little help here. geico. fifteen minutes could save you...well, you know.
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everyone knows detroit is broke, but now the motor city has to go out and prove it. this morning a federal judge began hearing arguments to
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determine whether the city of detroit is eligible for chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. if detroit is determined eligible, it will be the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in u.s. history. in order to qualify, the city must prove two things. first, it must show that detroit is insolvent. in theory, this should be relatively straightforward. detroit can no longer afford to perform basic functions like keeping street lights on and putting police officers on the street. in the trial, detroit's lawyers must also prove it had the authority to file for bankruptcy in the first place, something that may prove more complex. unions and pension funds claim the city failed to negotiate in good faith before filing for bankruptcy, and they are aggressively challenging the city, making the case that detroit's bankruptcy filing violates state prohibitions against cutting public pensions. if detroit does clear the chapter 9 hurdle, these unions will lose their leverage and are likely to see their pensions on the chopping block. the bankruptcy could slash pension payments by 90%.
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"the new york times" is reporting today that detroit has spent billions of extra dollars on pensions, but overall detroit pensions are hardly extravagant. the average payment for a public workers is $19,000 a year. the trial is expected to go on for at least a week. in the meantime, retired city workers like 87-year-old gordon mcdonald, a former police officer of 39 years, and his 82-year-old wife erma, will wait. >> i got envelopes that are marks with where the money goes. i put it in there and work from there. normally by the end of the month, it's pretty well shot. but we've been getting by. if they take my pension away, we'd be in bad shape. >> we're not rich, but we're making it and to have this come along at our age, it's very bad. why pick on us? the people that protected their
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city, the firemen that put out the fires. so i'm upset. i'm very upset, yeah. >> joining us now is a partner at chapman and cutler, bankruptcy attorney. thanks for joining us today. i want to start with the idea of good faith negotiations. the unions are saying they didn't take place. what would have been better? what could have ameliorated the situation? >> well, generally what happens and what happened in new york city in '75, cleveland in '78 and philadelphia in 1991, they all had financial problems. one of the issues is obviously what do you do with your workers and retirees? people come together and reach a resolution. good faith negotiations don't have to be perfect. they just have to be an opportunity for reasonable dialogue trying to find a solution. >> katrina, we talk a lot about public workers, the american worker in general. the question of pensions is a
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really complicated one. "the new york times" reports that a spokeswoman for detroit's pension trustees said the trustees were administering benefits that had been negotiated by the city and its unions and had established an external could covering the cost. these extra, these excess earnings turn out to be actually a critical part of making sure people have a livable wage. but the way in which cities have gone about sort of funding them seem to be untenable at best. if you look at pension liabilities in illinois, it is 241% of the state's annual revenues. in connecticut, it's 190%. in new jersey, it's 137%. that is not sustainable. >> you know, alex, first of all, don't lose sight of the couple we just saw on the screen. i mean, that is heartbreaking. these are people who have worked their lives and their $19,000 pensions may be slashed.
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yet, detroit right now is going to pump in corporate subsidies of some $300 million for this red wings, i think, team. there's no question the pension system in this country needs to be rethought. but i think there's a mythology about detroit, for example, that it was about bloated pensions and loss of tax revenues when, in fact, we lose sight of the larger deindustrialization of america, the larger macroeconomic forces. workers have gotten the shaft in this country for over 40 years. wages have stagnated. you could say the top 1% or 20% have gotten 95% of the income in the last five years since the recession. so there needs to be a larger rethinking, but with fairness and justice behind it. we're not seeing that very clearly because i would argue there is a kind of mythology, the same one that keeps telling us that debt and deficits are the real cries is in our country and not jobs and providing a secure pension for those who have worked so hard. these are issues that detroit,
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you know, reveals very clearly. >> jim, katrina brings up the point about sort of what's happened to detroit. this is not necessarily a story of bloated pensions, although pensions and the problem with finding enough money to fund these pensions, however small they may be, is an issue across the country. the other part of this is the declining work force in detroit. if you look at the city employment in 1951, there were 30,000 employees. in 2013, there were 10,500. the unemployment rate in the city is 18.8%. you're a bankruptcy attorney. what happens next here, if, in fact, detroit is able to file for chapter 9? how rosy -- or what is the picture of this city in the years to come? >> well, the real success of this, chapter 9 is just a process. it's a way of reducing debt to what is sustainable and affordable. what we really need to do, especially with the workers, is to have buy-in because you're going to need the workers and the citizens and retirees going
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forward. you need a recovery plan. you don't want to crowd out essential governmental services or infrastructure, police, fire, public safety, education. you want to foster the growth of jobs and economy. what has happened in the past is unfortunately for decades there has not been the investment in detroit. obviously, jobs have gone down. manufacturing jobs in detroit are less than one-tenth of what they were in 1950. so we need to help detroit recover. we need to pay the workers everything that can be paid reasonably without crowding out essential governmental services and not do what we've done in the past, which is basically not pay what should have been paid on an annual basis. we've crowded out essential governmental services. we've used that to balance the budget. we need to change that, reinvest, and hopefully find a recovery plan that works. >> it is a story with many chapters. bankruptcy attorney, thanks for your time. coming up, the 47% comments
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has 100% wholesome ingredients and none of those other things. now that's real love. and so is that. new so good! from iams. learn more at iams.com. there are 47% of people who will vote for the president no matter what. there are 47% who depend upon government, who believe they're victims, who believe they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it. >> pro tip for republicans, avoid repeating anything from mitt romney's campaign. but it somehow proves unavoidable, stay clear of the most devastating moment. paula page, this advice is for you. >> about 47% of able-bodied people in the state of maine
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don't work. about 47%. it's really bad. >> 47%. has paula page been rip van wing ling in his spare time? when asked for comment, the spokeswoman doubled down. liberal activists are determined to increase the number of residents who take tax dollars by expanding the size of government and the benefits government workers get and increasing the welfare rolls. one can only assume that this is the smoke them if you got them strategy of public commentary. if you're already over the 47% cliff, why not just go all the way and bring up the takers versus the makers on your way down? it's unclear whether the governor will release his very own binder full of women. now that he's gone full romney, anything is possible. after the break, could the star-spangled banner lose a few stars? we'll look at secessionist movements next.
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if at first you don't sec e secede, try, try again. a small fraction of the republican party may have shut down the entire federal government over a law passed three years ago by both houses of congress and upheld by the supreme court, but for some that was not enough. movements in several states are using a different tactic to fight what they call liberal government overreach, secession. in northern colorado, 11 counties will vote on a nonbinding ballot measure to form another state. certain residents in northern california and southern oregon are hoping to find the great state of jefferson. a facebook initiative to create the state of western maryland has received 7,000 likes. in illinois, two lawmakers have introduced a law to expel the state's largest city and the
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region's economic hub, chicago. according to the u.s. constitution, the secession movements would need approval from their state houses and sign off from congress, but that has not diminished their zeal. as one colorado resident tells "the new york times," there's going to be a revolution of some kind, this is the peaceful way to go about it. it is worth noting that republicans aren't the only ones seeking a split. fed up with cuts in education and health care as well as a discriminatory state immigration law, arizona residents in the tucson area tried in 2011 to form their own state of baja, arizona. to quote, tell the rest of the nation that not everybody in arizona is crazy. joining us now is the co-chair of start our state and assistant legal defender in arizona. paul, thanks for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> what motivated you to push for secession as opposed to, say, you know, mobilizing voters to turn out and elect democratic candidates or at least candidates that were more in line with your positions? >> well, back in 2010 when we
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started, the backdrop was, one, tucson has never liked phoenix and phoenix overbares us politically because of numbers. we're kind of just left of center community while phoenix is very conservative. the legislature was specifically very conservative far to the right and getting very extreme. the cuts in education have been going on for a very long time. we used to be sixth in the country per student spending. we were last by the time we decided to take this action. but the kind of racist-tinged, anti-immigration bills that were coming out of the state legislature, nullification statutes saying the legislature was going to follow certain federal laws was kind of crazy talk, as well as the fact that we just wanted to at least do something and push back symbolically. we knew it was a long shot to do
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this. you have to get approval by a legislature and go to congress. but we wanted to just push back and say, look, enough with the extremist politics. you know, start listening to the citizens of arizona, which were much more moderate than what the legislature was doing. basically, also to tell the rest of the nation and world that we're not all a bunch of crazies in tucson, arizona. >> i think the rest of the world appreciates that public service announcement. joy, we talk about the nullification strategy. the quote, there's a revolution coming, this is the peaceful way to go about it. different positions here. the sort of conservative movement seems legit. it's sending a message, of course, but there seems to be genuine desire to actually get away from this president and his policies, the feeling that government is onerous and if not downright dangerous. what does this tell us about our country? we come from a fractious,
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violent history. this seems different in some way. >> it does. like you said, it's about getting away. it's funny. the bad me kind of wants to let them go and say, you know, i'd almost like to see what this country would be like. there would be outlaws against contraception abortion. there would be this humongous birthrate. they'd had no social services, no medicare, no public services at all. it would be a completely private intervise. >> they wouldn't have obama care. >> no obama care. no rules against child lay bbor. it would be an interesting experiment. >> can i make two quick points? >> yes. >> i believe they set up their utopia in colorado. >> they can't have colorado. >> i'll give them a corner of colorado. >> the other point we should remember is that in 1969, here in the city of new york, people
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ran for mayor on the single idea of new york becoming its own state. in fact, staten island wanted to secede from new york city. rudy giuliani would have lost the mayoral election. my point is these things are not that new. they are fevers that bank -- >> but -- >> let me point out one thing. i do think we are becoming more polarized as a country. if you look at 1976, less than a quarter of americans lived in places where presidential elections were landslides. in 2004, nearly half of all voters live in landslide counties. >> i think we're in the midst of a political cultural war where people are more dug in. sometimes even locally dug into their positions. we see people not wanting to admit, you know, political losses. okay, obama won. you know, the democrats, he gets four years, eight years to do what he wants. if we don't like it, we come
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back. no, we're going to take our ball and get out of here because we don't think this is legitimate. we don't think this is the real america. it's all tied into that. today on "mother jones," we put up a story too early for you to see before the show, that a senate republican tea party candidate challenging tad cochran has spoken to neo-confederate groups suppo supporting secession. this is part of the right-wing culture. secede, get out, delegitimize, this ain't our america. >> we've been more polarized. the civil war, the years before the civil war. but there is a terrible irony. president obama came to national attention talking about red and blue and america and wanting to unite and weave those together. this country now is further apart. though, i do think some of those maps overstate. i think ordinary americans going about their lives are not
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necessarily trackable on one political spectrum. they find issues they care about, but there has been an attempt, particularly on the right, and there's a white supremacist strand which has been there a long time, a neo-confederate that wants to delegitimize the political, legal -- well, that doesn't abide by majority rule. take aca. it's upheld by the supreme court, passed by both houses of congress. if people don't like it on this kind of neo-secessionist -- they want to say, no. by the way, rick perry, remember one of his big platforms was to nullify the 17th amendment so that a majority of americans could not, in their state, vote for the senate of their choice. >> there's a book called "a big sort" by bill bishop. we live in like-minded communities more and more. we did it because of lifestyle, but it has huge political -- >> and paul, that's part -- it's an you are ran/rural divide as much as anything else.
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it's pointed out the difference is no longer where people live, it's how people live. spread out, open, low-density, privacy or in rough and tumble populations -- you can see that. that's born out in who won big cities in the last elections. mitt romney won four big cities. the only ones that romney won were phoenix, oklahoma city, ft. worth, and salt lake city. how do you see that being born out where you live and with the baja, arizona, movement? >> it's funny. when we were doing this effort, there was a number of the rural counties that were much more conservative than us that wanted to join us because they don't like phoenix either. so it was kind of interesting. >> what's wrong with phoenix? >> it's a rural/urban split a little bit. alex, one of the things i wanted to make a point about is we felt we contributed to a little bit of success of bringing back arizona a little more moderate.
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we got more moderate legislators elected, both on -- more democrats but also more moderate republicans elected in the last election. and january br brewer, if you t passed through the legislature the medicaid expansion on obama care. we feel like at least we contributed because we actually made our voices heard using this process. it doesn't necessarily mean we thought we were going to become a new state. by the way, it's happened twice in our history. maine separated from massachusetts in 1820 and west virginia from virginia during the civil war. >> you know, you're actually basically using a strategy that a lot of the sort of tea partiers use which is we're not here to get our specific agenda enacted but to move the ball further down the field perhaps in our direction. i will say, paul, that the name baja, arizona, has won you many fans in this building. everybody that i've talked to says, that sounds like an awesome place to live.
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so congratulations on making a difference and also coming up with a great name for a possible 51st state. co-chair of start our state, paul, thanks for your time. >> thank you. >> coming up, a new book asks the hypothetical, what if john f. kennedy had lived? we'll discuss jeff greenfield's latest just ahead on "now." for seeing your business in a whole new way. for seeing what cash is coming in and going out... so you can understand every angle of your cash flow- last week, this month, and even next year. for seeing your business's cash flow like never before, introducing cash flow insight powered by pnc cfo. a suite of online tools that lets you turn insight into action. ♪ because an empty pan is a blank canvas. ♪
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as the country gets set to mark the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination, a new book asks, what would kennedy have accomplished with another term? we'll discuss next on "now." hey, it's me, progressive insurance. you know, from our 4,000 television commercials. yep, there i am with flo. hoo-hoo! watch it! [chuckles] anyhoo, 3 million people switched to me last year, saving an average of $475.
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what would have happened if john f. kennedy had not been
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assassinated? would he have won re-election? would he have achieved the same landmark civil rights victories as his successor? those are some of the questions posed by jeff greenfield in his latest book "if kennedy lived." jeff, congrats on the book. >> thank you. >> perhaps maybe in response to some of those questions you write in the book, a detached, dispassionate president might not have had the commitment to fight hard for a civil rights bill or commit the nation to, quote, war on poverty. that same approach might have prevented a president from escalating a war out of a refusal to be the first president to lose a war, as lbj once famously put it. you think maybe not as good on civil rights, better on vietnam. >> if you're doing this at mat history not as a sci-fi thing, what you do in a sense is you learn as much as possible from oral histories, from documents, from assessments, and in effect it's almost like running
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simulations. you say, i plug this personality or character trait into the conditions on the ground and make some judgments. john kennedy was a cautious man. he talked boldly, new frontier, but he wasn't, not politically. he was more skeptical about the power of the government domestically. so if you're looking about, say -- he wouldn't, in my view, there never would have been a great society. he never thought that way. it was johnson who dreamed of being the second fdr. >> that was how he got to political power, delivering electricity to poor people in texas. >> exactly. contrary to that, and this is something conservatives will disagree with, that he was conservative on foreign policy. that's not the john kennedy who went to dallas. having lived through the cuban missile crisis, having learned to be skeptical about military
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assurances of what we knew and how, having thought the french were foolish to try to hold on to their empire, my sense is he would have been very -- and he was. even though he did put military troops, even though his administration clumsily and half-assedly -- >> you said it, not me, brother. >> it's cable, it's cable. signed off on a coup that made up more committed. all the evidence i can find is he would have been very reluctant. you never would have had a situation where president kennedy would have gone on television and say forthrightly, we can't win this war. he would have kind of backed out, in my view. >> i was saying to jeff earlier, what i think he's done is very important. a lot of historians shy away from what is often called counterfactual or what-if history. ic i think that's a mistake. if you engage in that thought
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scenario, it allows you to think of the roads not taken, the missed opportunities, which we should engage in. too often the discussion, the debate is closed down. >> it also brings up -- i think it also makes us re-examine history in a more even light, which is to say lbj and his record on civil rights, even richard nixon and some of the things he did. there's a lot of myth making for various valid reasons. >> it's fascinating you mention that. after we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the march on washington, the real his tory i in the months after that. the civil rights leaders were incredibly frustrated with the slow pace of getting that legislation through. they were prodding legislation that kenley had already sent top congress. it wasn't going anywhere. >> after the civil rights act of '64 was acted, richard russell said we could have beaten john kennedy on civil rights. we couldn't beat johnson. in part, not just because
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johnson was a master of the senate, because johnson could use the martyr come of jack kennedy to say you have to do this. in fact, the -- by the end of kennedy's life, it was clear the civil rights act was being bottled up. in fact, so was so much of the legislation, that critics like walter lipman and john mcgregor were writing about a constitutional crisis, that we couldn't get anything done. the other part about this is john kennedy's focus was the world. his only black adviser once said to him, you care more about germany than alabama, which is true. >> that's fascinating. a fascinating read. david, did you want to say one more thing? >> you look at the art of president kennedy, too. the cuban missile crisis, he turned down the advice of his top military advisers to launch a nuclear war. i think that gave him a whole different perspective, and we never saw what that really would have yielded. >> and he gets to meet the beatles. >> that is worth imagining.
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"if kennedy lived," jeff greenfield, thank you. we'll see you back here tomorrow at noon eastern. "andrea mitchell reports" is coming up next. huh...fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance. yep, everybody knows that. well, did you know the ancient pyramids were actually a mistake? uh-oh. geico. fifteen minutes could save you...well, you know. of their type 2 diabetes with non-insulin victoza®. for a while, i took a pill to lower my blood sugar, but it didn't get me to my goal. so i asked my doctor about victoza®. he said victoza® is different than pills.
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